Watch Tower 14

If you died building the wall, they say,
You were buried within it. Upright, maybe,
So you could still see the enemy coming
And stand your ground. Or, if you lay,
Your hands folded, perhaps, you could count
The soles of hurrying feet. Windows and
Arches open the sky in shapes of fear that
Slide along the walls of Watch Tower 14.
Hills of blue and square skies threaten to fall
On the reclining or upright dead, like enemy
Feet, with truncheons and knives. A wall
Is such a fragile bridge between living
Deaths and dying lives.

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The poem writes and makes itself mine

(an homage to my DR community – this poem is made entirely of lines from poems posted today)

A turn of phrase or metaphor
For the times cannot be found.
I wish I could learn to talk to trees.
What have I done to deserve this?
It’s an old hackneyed question.
The axe and the blight
The pause and the gush
Scattered twigs
A quilted screen
Yours for the taking
More than I
Can hold.

What need of poets

What need of poets when pyres are lit
On sidewalks – shall I say ‘let us go then,
You and I, when the evening is spread out
Against the sky’ and patients no longer
Etherized are strewn in our way? What need
Of imagery for a people starved
Of oxygen? Will metaphor bridge the
Chasm between the living and those
Unable to breathe? Should I not, instead,
Stake out my ground, and as a signpost might,
Point and direct the onlooker to parks
Abloom with pyre-beds, and flames that feed
Oxygen-giving trees with their dead? When
The iron hearts of crematoriums surrender
The poet needs must accept defeat. No mere
Broken heart melting with pity that still
Beats in my wordless body can compete

Portrait of a marriage at twenty-two

No smiling, were the instructions for the
Model. He tried to straighten his face. It took
A few tries and even so, the laugh lines will
Add a twinkle that won’t be easy enough to
Trace. Make sure there is enough light and some
Decent shadowing, we were told. So we went
Into the kitchen where the evening sun kindles
The homey concatenation of appliances and plants
Candles and bowls, things to use and things to
Hold, into scattered embers and points of shine.
‘Be careful what you place the subject against.’
The kitchen wall, canary yellow, carries well the
Slants and flow of light. So bright, the green-grey
Eyes that look straight into mine. The gold-brown
Dwindles, puts up a good-natured fight with the
Twenty-two years, the encroaching white. I know
My brush will never catch the warmth of the
Shadows, how they’re just another kind of
Glow. But this portrait is just beginning and I’m
Really more than willing to keep it simple and
Take it slow.

As ever, my last poem of April for Anannya

I’ll spare you the metaphors of flowers, we
Are all April phools after all. And I’ll desist
From images of gardens and blooming and
Other such, because this one is for Anannya
But also for all of you – all of us, who resist
The stifling of words, the impossibility of
Poetry. To all the pictures of loveliness
That we have sent each other, I add this,
Of lilies. Because they so proudly proclaim
So shamelessly confess to their beauty.
Like trumpets, each head, triumphant
In its glory – and yet, you can close
Your eyes and breathe in its story. Each
Unique, each like its other, they are a
Cluster of gratitude, a world together.

The lily and the amaltas – a May Day labour of love

Fill your lungs with marvel, a wonder
Full of exaltation. To breathe
Each open red heart into your own
A kind of beatitude. They toil not
Nor do they spin yet which of us is
Freed from this sin. I have other
Places I want to be and other flowers
I need to see other labours
That beckon to me so far away
Unreachable so deeply lodged within.
Hours spent in the work of hands when
Other homes and other lands bloom
Yellow, gold, and shades of fire.
Give me an ecstasy of scents or
Bring me a fiery magnificence
But grant me no special beneficence
From this cleaving desire.

Fanfare for all the helping hands

The lilies, like a brass band, march across
The living room, trumpeting their deliciousness
In brazen tones. This year the arch of
Seduction spans seas and souls, bringing
Love in pressurised litres, texts, and zoom – no
Lyrical love songs, no dulcet tones. I hear
The amaltas like a choir over a billion strong
Thundering in my heart, and in my ear
Blasts this unprecedented song, this
Unbridled declaration of the sweetness
That lies at the core. Louder than hate
And evil and maliciousness, prouder
Than the sentries guarding death’s door,

Vista

 :a pleasing view;
:a mental vision of a succession of remembered or anticipated events.

The dignity of lamps lights them still
Even when felled. The freshly dug pits
Receive them with the compassion of
A mass grave for unaccommodated
Humankind. Their roots do not flail
Naked, expelled from earthy homes.
Their heads do not bow, bending and
Leafy, green amidst sandstone
Domes. No cry no shout no wail
Of iron links sundered from brass
Headed rail no sound of an ending.
So silent, this raising of dust in the
Awkward extraction of the mighty
Stout-as-stone heart of a nation.
Where grief, quiet as smoke,
Stands sentinel, asking neither
Elegy nor pity for the vast cremation
Ground that is this city.

On letting my kid go to the volcano from which she brought back fresh lava

It hurts you when you hold it. Resentful
Of your thin skin your nerves that scream
Your wondering fingertips wincing
Along crevices. Not ready to take its place
As a hard sharp thing. Birth is difficult, the clean
Hot liquid womb a descent full of forcing
Out. And however cautiously you brace
Yourself, children are so hard to set
Free. Distrustful of your squeamish care.
So beautiful it hurts when your forge it.
In this almost-Spring, a hammering out
In the smithy of creating, a laying bare.